Thoughts of a Baggie
Starting a new series of opposition fans thoughts of our forthcoming fixtures.
Bold = TNMW
Italic = Baggie Boy
Would you say that WBA have improved from last year?
Definitely, the base that Roy Hodgson had set up has been built on nicely by Steve Clarke and we're either creating more chances in games this season, or we're making more use of the chances we do create. It's early days and there will be games we dominate that we lose, and games where we just don't turn up, but we're still to see the best from some of our signings which hopefully should kick in as and when injuries or suspensions do to key players. So plenty of work still be done, but certainly can't be disappointed with the development we've seen in the last few months.
What is the general opinion of NUFC as a whole looking in from the outside?
I thought it was going to go horribly wrong for you with the sacking of Hughton, but Pardew seems to have got a bit of a siege mentality going from how I've seen you play. Now things are looking good on the pitch for you, it seems to have revitalised the whole club and brought you all together, seems ages now since I've seen any anti-Ashley rants or complaints.
Whole club seems worlds apart from a few seasons ago.
Would you class us as a big scalp?
I think so yes. I grew up during the time of Mary Poppins :-) and apart from hiccups you have been successful in the league, and usually in the mix over the years. So you have to be considered one of the bigger teams in the league, even if you haven't lived up to your own expectations at times.
Who are your danger men?
We've got quite a few now thankfully, the obvious one is Shane Long who poses a different threat for defences because of his running, Peter Odemwingie's record speaks for itself in terms of how dangerous a finisher he is, and we have the on loan Romelu Lukaku who really gives us a physical presence upfront. It's nice this season in many ways to know it would be hard to pick out one player who makes us tick.
Who do you fear in the black and white?
I think the obvious ones that stand out are Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Ba. We'll have to keep them quiet to ensure we take all three points, as each of them are capable of one moment of genuis that can turn the game in your favour.
What are WBA's ambitions for this season?
Ambitions started - and the club are doing their best to just keep focusing on 40 points first - to ensure survival again, and then whilst the hope was all would go well and Clarke could slightly improve on our finish last season, the expectation was we'd dip a little as he adjusted to life in the hotseat, so maybe the loss of a place or two in the table, and I think most would've been more than happy with that.
Following our start though it's becoming difficult not to wonder 'what if' and whilst it's still pie in the sky, the longer we keep this form going, the harder it's going to be to not look enviously at a top six finish, as at the moment, we deserve it. We have to see if we've been good enough to deserve it come the end of the season and the inevitable dip in form we will suffer as the months progress.
As things stand, I'd snap your hand off for an 8-10 place finish as that would be real growth on last year's achievement, without getting too carried away in what are very early days for Steve Clarke's tenure at the club.
Are you happy with what you have seen so far?
As above very, very happy with what we've seen. We play the right way, we go for teams instead of sitting back and being comfortable for a point - and that cost us against Man City - so there's very little to not be happy about at the moment. But as said, it's early days but Clarke has shown he can take what's good about our team and play to our strengths, whilst changing things to suit his ethos without it harming our style of play. This form won't continue for ever, but I'll enjoy it whilst it lasts because it was unexpected, but it shows progress is being made again and that's all we need at Albion. Steady growth season on season will keep most of us happy I imagine.
What are your thoughts about Steve Clarke?
I was quite excited by the appointment and didn't think it would be as bad as some thought because of how the club are set up, our manager role really is more akin to a head coach position, so it gave that nice leeway for Clarke to do what he knows he's good at, whilst having support in the areas that would be new to him.
He's a brilliant coach as we all know, and he's worked with some of the best and he'll have learnt a lot. The only real question for me was can he take the pressure and handle the players in the pressure moments when you can't buy a goal for love nor money.
That's still open to debate, but the implosion some expected clearly hasn't happened, and he's shown that despite a heavy defeat to Fulham he can gee himself and the lads up to return to winning ways, which bodes well for the eventual dip I see us having.
It won't all be sweetness and light during his time with us, but I can't help wondering if in 3-4 years will we have progressed enough, for him not to be poached, because I think he's going to have a huge future in the game now he's made his step into management.
What result would WBA be happy with?
After the Man City game I imagine we'll going all out for the three points to make up for it, for me though, as long as we put in a good solid performance, I'd be happy with the 0-0 and another clean sheet for confidence.
Finally, Match prediction?
All that said, I think 2-1 to us
Cheers mate, let's hope it's a clean game and the fairest result welcomes in the first league game back at the rightly renamed St James' Park.